Vicki Marble’s Crazy Cub Scout Talk is Now National News

UPDATE: CNN picks up the story:

—–

State Sen. Vicki Marble, left, speaks to 11-year-old Ames Mayfield on Oct. 9

Republican State Sen. Vicki Marble’s spectacularly-strange talk to a group of Cub Scouts in Broomfield, which first appeared on Colorado Pols on Thursday, Oct. 12, has become a national news story after one of the fifth-graders who asked tough questions was kicked out of his Cub Scout Den.

The story of 11-year-old Ames Mayfield was picked up this week by 9News, Denver7, Fox 31 and the Denver Post. Earlier this week the editorial board of the Denver Post chastised Marble for lying to the group of Cub Scouts (“Vicki Marble’s Finger-Lickin Lie”), and on Thursday the Post editorial board again weighed in to support Mayfield.

Marshall Zelinger of 9News sat down for an interview with Ames and his mother, Lori, for a story that ran on Thursday night. Whether or not you agree with Ames, it’s impossible to not be impressed with this kid’s composure (full video after the jump below):   

“I know that they probably don’t want me back…and I know that they’re probably still mad at me,” Ames Mayfield said.

Ames asked very specific questions on gun control when State Senator Vicki Marble visited the 11-year-old’s den on Oct. 9…

…Five days later, the Pack leader met with Ames’ mom and said Ames could find another Den within the Pack but not the one he was currently in.

“I am really heartbroken that my Den leader, which I really felt like I had a pretty good relationship with, decided to kick me out,” Ames said.

If you’re skeptical about Ames and his questions to Marble, just watch the 9News story; this is a smart kid who asked smart questions all on his own.

Ames Mayfield

Marble’s bizarre talk with the Cub Scouts started to gain national attention on Thursday, and today Samantha Schmidt flushes out more details for the Washington Post:

Ames’s story drew the attention of gun control advocate and former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot in the head by an assailant in 2011, suffering a severe brain injury.

“This is exactly the kind of courage we need in Congress,” Giffords tweeted Thursday. “Ames, call me in 14 years. I’ll campaign for you.”

Giffords’s husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, called Ames and his mother Thursday night to talk about what happened, according to Fox 31

After Mayfield posted the videos on YouTube, the website Colorado Pols published a story about the senator’s exchange with the Cub Scouts. It was after this article published that Ames’s pack leader requested a meeting with his mother. [Pols emphasis]

Mayfield said she was told by the pack leader that Ames should not have brought up the topic of gun control, although Mayfield asserts the Scouts weren’t given any parameters before the meeting. The pack leader, she said, told her words Ames used were disrespectful, such as “why on earth,” the mention of “Republicans” and the phrase, “if you truly represent your constituents.”

Remember to bookmark this link so that you can show it to your grandchildren when Ames Mayfield is elected President of the United States around the year 2048.

(more…)

Colorado Christian U To GOP: Hands Off Weed Money!

Weed biz.

Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette follows up on one of the week’s more curious local political stories, a fundraiser for the GOP’s Senate Majority Fund 527 attended by members of the budding (pun) marijuana industry–an interesting change-up for a party that includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, far and away the biggest threat to legalized marijuana in its short history.

As as suspected in our previous mention of this, Colorado Christian University, which fancies itself as the leading moral arbiter of the Christian conservative ecosphere in our state, is not happy with Republicans consorting with reefers! Though they claim the Senate GOP’s fundraiser is not the reason they’re sounding off:

In a stern letter to state lawmakers, the president of Colorado Christian University and the director of the school’s conservative think tank on Thursday called on legislators to refuse campaign donations from the marijuana industry, saying the legalized drug “has devastated Colorado by nearly every metric.”

“It has come to our attention that state legislators are accepting campaign donations from the marijuana industry. As educators and researchers, we hope this is not the case. Marijuana has devastated Colorado by nearly every metric and we are particularly concerned about marijuana’s health impact on youth,” CCU President Dr. Donald Sweeting and Centennial Institute director Jeff Hunt wrote.

“Colorado Christian University asks that you audit your donations for any money given by the marijuana industry and donate those funds to marijuana youth prevention and recovery organizations. We are happy to meet with you to discuss marijuana’s devastating impacts on Colorado. We look forward to your leadership on this issue and your work to make Colorado a better state for its citizens and especially its young people,” they concluded.

GOP Senate President Kevin Grantham’s sock-in-mouth response:

“More power to them,” Grantham said. “I think they will continue to be a good friend to us while continuing to lead that charge against some of the more destructive qualities of marijuana in Colorado. But as far as the other aspects of this, the donations, etc., that will be up to individual members what they want to do.”

As you can see, the question is not morally ambiguous to Jeff Hunt of CCU’s Centennial Institute like it appears to be with Senate President Grantham. For Hunt, taking money from the marijuana industry is little different from taking money from an organized crime cartel. But could you imagine Grantham saying it’s “up to individual members” whether they want to take money from Al Capone?

And before you flame us, yes, we know the legal marijuana industry has nothing whatsoever in common with organized crime. That’s the point of legalization. We’re just trying to illustrate how passionate the opponents of marijuana legalization are, viewing it as an historic and devastating rollback of almost a century of illegal drug prohibition in this country. Marijuana industry cash is much more of a political problem for Republicans than Democrats–for whom legal marijuana carries little to no moral stigma among their base. Legality of marijuana under state but not federal law supplies all the pretext necessary for opponents to rage against marijuana with the same zeal they had before it was legalized. Legal in Colorado or not, it’s still “a sin.”

With all of this in mind, might the Senate Majority Fund think twice about spending that freshly-raised marijuana cabbage? And if they don’t…will they answer to a higher authority?

Get More Smarter on Friday (October 13)

Today is the second, and final, Friday the 13th of 2017. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump is destroying healthcare in America. Trump signed an Executive Order on Thursday that encourages the creation of cheap and largely worthless health insurance plans for healthier Americans — the result of which will likely drive up costs significantly for everyone else.

As the Denver Post reports, Colorado’s top insurance regulator is concerned about what comes next:

Colorado’s top insurance regulator responded on Thursday to President Donald Trump’s health care executive order with concern, saying the policies endorsed could lead to flimsier coverage in the state and much higher costs for the sick.

“The limited benefits, the focus on the healthy at the expense of those with pre-existing conditions, and lack of regulatory oversight will cause problems for the health insurance market as a whole,” said Marguerite Salazar, the state’s insurance commissioner…

…In her statement, Salazar said expanding the use of these plans — and loosening the requirements around them — could pull healthy people into skimpier plans, while heaping unbearable costs on the sick.

“Premiums may end up being lower for people buying these plans, but for many, paying for services not covered by the plans will be much more costly in the long run,” she said.

 

► Thursday’s Executive Order was just the first blow in a one-two combination thrown by Trump to bury the Affordable Care Act. As Politico reports:

President Donald Trump plans to cut off subsidy payments to insurers selling Obamacare coverage in his most aggressive move yet to undermine his predecessor’s health care law.

The subsidies, which are worth an estimated $7 billion this year and are paid out in monthly installments, may stop almost immediately since Congress hasn’t appropriated funding for the program.

The decision — which leaked out only hours after Trump signed an executive order calling for new regulations to encourage cheap, loosely regulated health plans — delivered a double whammy to Obamacare after months of failed GOP efforts to repeal the law. With open enrollment for the 2018 plan year set to launch in two weeks, the moves seem aimed at dismantling the law through executive actions.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the decision in a statement emailed to reporters Thursday night.

How is Trump able to just cancel these subsidies? You can draw a straight line between this pending E.O. and legislation passed by Congress in 2014 with the support of Republicans Cory Gardner, Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, and Doug Lamborn.

Vox.com has more on how and why Trump’s actions on Obamacare create a lose-lose situation for Americans.

 

► President Trump’s decision to use Executive Orders to cripple the Affordable Care Act puts the results — which aren’t likely to be good — squarely on his shoulders. As the Washington Post explains:

This is not “letting” Obamacare fail. Many nonpartisan experts believe that these active measures are likely to undermine the pillars of the 2010 law and hasten the collapse of the marketplaces.

The Pottery Barn rule comes to mind: You break it, you own it. Yes, the plate you just shattered had some cracks in it. But if you dropped it on the ground, the store is going to blame you.

As Barack Obama learned after the Great Recession, with heavy Democratic losses in the 2010 midterms, it’s hard to blame your predecessor for problems two years after you take office. Especially when your party has unified control of the federal government. No matter how much it might be the previous guy’s fault, many voters won’t buy it. People have very short attention spans.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper calls Trump’s healthcare decisions “cruel and irresponsible.” The editorial board at the New York Times calls on Congress to prevent Trump from destroying the healthcare marketplace.

 

► In non-healthcare news, President Trump has apparently made a decision on how to proceed with the Iran nuclear deal: He’s going to punt. Instead of scuttling the deal altogether, Trump is asking Congress to fix “flaws” in the agreement that was sealed by the Obama administration. Why Trump thinks Congress can fix anything is another question altogether.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Vicki Marble and the Cub Scout Tapes

State Sen. Vicki Marble (R)

State Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Broomfield-ish) is no stranger when it comes to making what we could charitably call “controversial” statements, but she really raised lowered the bar for herself this week while speaking to a troop of Cub Scouts in Broomfield.

We’ll get to that Broomfield scout meeting in a moment, but first a little primer on Marble. It is Marble who came up with the “Hateful Eight” moniker to describe her and seven of her conservative colleagues in the state senate. She has alleged that renewable energy proponents “destroyed” the town of Craig with their “maypole” windmills. She has trouble differentiating between legitimate news sources and satire sites like “The Onion.” She believes that advocates for equal pay are actually victimizing women.

And, of course, Marble was the voice behind the infamous “Chickengate” affair, in which she explained during a legislative hearing on poverty that African-Americans have a shorter life span because they eat too much chicken and barbecue; the State Republican Party practically tripped over itself trying to distance itself from Marble’s commentary on this issue.

On Monday, Oct. 9, Marble spoke to a Cub Scout pack in Broomfield and delivered a breathtaking display of craziness. Videos of Marble’s remarks showed up on YouTube soon afterward; we’ve taken the liberty of transcribing Marble’s comments so that you can better hope to understand one of the more uncomfortable diatribes we’ve come across in recent memory.

You can read Marble’s comments on a variety of subjects after the jump. We’ve also included links to the videos related to the transcription…

  (more…)

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (October 11)

Today is not international fried chicken day or anything else; for once, it’s just a day. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump reportedly asked military leaders to dramatically increase the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. As NBC News reports:

President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.

Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.

According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the buildup. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.

Trump responded to the NBC News report with his typical “fake news” diatribe, though with a new twist on his worn-out rhetoric. From Politico:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested that NBC’s broadcast license should be pulled as punishment after NBC News published a report stating that the president sought a dramatic increase in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

“Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning, equating the two TV news outlets he has most often lashed out against. “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”…

…The president’s stated willingness to potentially challenge the broadcast licenses of networks whose coverage he objects to opens a new front on Trump’s long-running battle with the media. The president has regularly complained about coverage he views as unfairly critical, labeling stories, reporters and entire outlets “fake news.”

Like most of the things Trump says, this threat is more fantasy than reality. It is extremely unlikely that Trump could somehow coerce the FCC into cutting off NBC’s broadcast license. The Politico story quotes Andrew Schwartzman, a communications lawyer with the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center, calling Trump’s grumbling “an empty threat.”

Nevertheless, Trump’s latest threat was met with a swift response from Democrats:

Bennet is also calling on the FCC to clarify that NBC is in no danger of losing its broadcast license.

 

► Congressional Republican leaders say that “failure is not an option” when it comes to tax reform. Of course, they said similar things before failing repeatedly to repeal Obamacare.

The New York Times examines how a tax reform plan similar to the one being championed by President Trump was enacted in Kansas — and quickly repealed by lawmakers after disastrous results:

With the state hemorrhaging government revenue, Kansas lawmakers rolled back the tax law this year, but congressional Republicans and President Trump are trying to take the experiment with pass-through preferences national, beyond Wichita and Topeka to cities with residents who measure incomes in seven, eight or nine figures.

The Republican tax rewrite unveiled this month aims to jump-start economic growth in part by establishing a 25 percent tax rate on small businesses and other firms that operate as pass-through entities, a cut from the top rate of 39.6 percent that such business owners pay now.

But the abandoned experiment in Kansas points to how a carve-out intended to help raise growth and create jobs instead created an incentive for residents, particularly high earners, to avoid paying state income taxes by changing how they got paid.

 

► Colorado politicians — those not named Cory Gardner, anyway — continue to criticize the Trump administration’s War on Clean Energy, which took a new turn on Tuesday when EPA Chief Scott Pruitt ended the Obama-era “Clean Power Plan.” Gardner and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) do agree that a proposed tariff on the import of solar panels is a bad idea.

 

► Massive wildfires in California are straining emergency response systems.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

D’oh! Colorado Candidates Have New Reports to File

Candidates running for statewide office in Colorado in 2017 and 2018 need to make sure they comply with a new reporting requirement until November 8. According to a press release from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, a drafting error in a bill passed by the Colorado legislature in 2016 is causing some unexpected problems:

A campaign finance bill aimed at providing more transparency for school board races, which are held in odd years, has impacted those running in the 2018 election, including the numerous candidates for governor.

The Colorado General Assembly passed a bill in 2016 that requires contributions of $1,000 or more be disclosed within 24 hours starting 30 days prior to the election in an odd year. It also requires disclosure of certain spending on advertisements, billboards and direct mailing that mentions candidates.

But the legislation didn’t limit the new requirement to school races. As a result, candidates running in next year’s general election must comply with the blanket requirements. The 24-hour reporting mandate began Sunday and runs through the election on Nov. 7.

General-election candidates already were subject to 24-hour reporting campaign-finance requirements 30 days before the primary election and again before the general election. The primary election is set for June 26 and the general election is Nov. 6.

House Bill 1282 was borne out of frustration with some 2015 school board races. At the time, political-committee expenditures in those races had to be filed quarterly, so the last one before the election showed up by Oct. 15. The next report wasn’t due until Jan. 15 of the following year, allowing donations throughout October and early November to be kept quiet until after the election.

We would expect that the legislature will fix this error when it reconvenes in January, but until then, statewide campaigns in Colorado may have some extra paperwork to do.

Don’t Tell Jeff–Colorado GOP Gladly Takes Weed Money

UPDATE: From Jeff Hunt of Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute:

Time for a conference call.

—–

Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert (R).

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, some are calling it a groundbreaking moment while others cry hypocrisy–though we have yet to hear from such authoritative figures within the Republican Party as Attorney General Jeff “Reefer Madness” Sessions or locally the Centennial Institute’s famously anti-weed Jeff Hunt:

All the progress that legalized marijuana has made in Colorado is nothing compared to what is about to happen on Wednesday.

That’s when the marijuana industry will hold a political fundraiser for Republicans, many of whom opposed the legalization of personal use and retail sales of the drug five years ago…

The Republican group co-hosting the event at Denver’s Capitol Hill Tavern is the Senate Majority Fund, a political group that uses its money to support GOP candidates for the Colorado Senate, primarily through advertising.

The group’s aim is to make sure Republicans maintain their majority in the 35-member Senate, even if it’s only the one-vote lead it currently holds.

JUST KIDDING.

It’s important to note that, although elected officials on both sides were generally unsupportive of 2012’s Amendment 64, the vote in 2013 in the Colorado General Assembly on the legislation that enabled the constitutional amendment to take effect–House Bill 13-1317–was split closely along party lines in the House. GOP lawmakers like now-Sen. Chris Holbert, who is quoted in Ashby’s story saying Amendment 64 is the law and of course Republicans are duty-bound to uphold the will of the voters, actually voted against the legislation to let said voters’ will take effect.

Politically, it’s impossible to reconcile the Republican Senate Majority Fund holding a marijuana industry fundraiser with the overwhelming present-day consensus that the Republican Party is really not into the “devil weed.” In addition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ explicit threats to shut down not just recreational but also medical marijuana sales, local influentials like Jeff Hunt of the Centennial Institute have attracted much attention with their claims that legalization of marijuana has “devastated Colorado.” Not to mention 2013 recall agitator Jennifer Kerns’ ludicrous stories in The Blaze about “marijuana crack babies.”

Certainly we understand the marijuana industry’s desire to cultivate support (pun intended) on both sides of the aisle, so don’t mistake this for criticism of their efforts here–or the money they raise tomorrow night for Republican Senate candidates. The real question will be whether the substantial wing of the Republican Party that remains, in some cases fanatically, opposed to marijuana legalization is willing to tolerate Colorado Senate Republicans taking marijuana money.

Vaya con dios.

“Every Dollar Counts”—Special District Pain Stories Begin

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham.

After last week’s failure of a special session of the Colorado General Assembly to correct a drafting error in a fiscal policy bill passed earlier this year, an error costing special tax districts millions of dollars combined in lost revenue from marijuana sales taxes, the next phase of reporting is starting to come out—documenting the harm being done to some of these districts due to lost revenue that everyone agrees was not intended.

CBS4 reported this weekend on one such case, the Summit County Combined Housing Authority:

Summit County is a place where affordable housing is nearly impossible to find and every dollar to subsidize housing counts.

“Every dollar does count,” said said Summit County Combined Housing Authority spokesman Jason Dietz. “We are moving forward, we have a lot of projects in the works with our jurisdictions.”

…In July, those pot taxes slated for Summit County added up to about $11,000. That means new housing projects and resources for people desperate to find a home will have to be reevaluated.

Before and during the special session, Republicans tried all kinds of rhetorical ways to minimize the harm that would be done from failing to correct the error in Senate Bill 17-267 responsible for special district marijuana tax revenues going uncollected. RTD Denver could take the hit, they said. The booming economy compensates, they said. Everyone knows that the $500,000 hit RTD is taking every month these taxes go uncollected is not going to shut RTD down. It’s a question of services lost or improvements delayed around the margins. An incremental hardship.

But for the Summit County Combined Housing Authority, $11,000 a month means some people might not get the help they need with affordable housing. The incremental loss counts for much more. For reasons we expect could fill a blog post all by themselves, many special tax districts affected by the loss of marijuana tax revenue seem to be heavily in Democratic-represented areas of the state, one notable exception being the Colorado Springs transportation district. For ideological and perhaps also geographic reasons, Senate Republicans decided that making these special districts feel the pain of a bipartisan drafting error was good politics for them.

Every story like this one, aired in Republican and Democratic legislative districts alike, makes that calculation harder to justify. The only thing that has prevented the failure of the special session from becoming a serious liability for Colorado Republicans is the onslaught of national political news squelching everything else. With that said, the common themes of political treachery and incompetence from Colorado’s special session mesh seamlessly with public perception of Republicans in Washington.

And it’s not a good look.

Get More Smarter On Monday (October 9)

Have a nice Columbus Day/ Indigenous People’s Day. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump said last month that he would not require funding for a border wall with Mexico to be tied to DACA legislation. Of course, President Trump says a lot of things. As the Washington Post explains, that was then, and this is now:

The Trump administration released a list of hard-line immigration principles late Sunday that threaten to derail a deal in Congress to allow hundreds of thousands of younger undocumented immigrants to remain in the country legally.

The administration’s wish list includes the funding of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a crackdown on the influx of Central American minors and curbs on federal grants to “sanctuary cities,” according to a document distributed to Congress and obtained by The Washington Post.

As Politico notes, Trump’s Sunday demands are likely to stop DACA legislation before it even gets moving:

On Sunday, Trump called on Congress to build a wall along the southern border — a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, which was premised on tougher immigration policies. But Democratic leaders left the dinner believing that Trump would not demand a border wall in exchange for signing legislation to provide legal status to immigrants who obtained protection from deportation and work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program…

…The list will certainly turn off Democrats and even Republicans — many of whom have endorsed providing a pathway to legal status for “Dreamers,” or undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors. The White House said Sunday it was not interested in providing citizenship to DACA beneficiaries, even though the main proposals for Dreamers on Capitol Hill would allow a pathway to citizenship.

 

President Trump inexplicably picked a fight with retiring Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker in a Twitter tirade on Sunday — a head-scratching decision that highlights Trump’s apparent inability to govern.

Corker did not hold back in his response:

Corker was also prompted by Trump’s tirade to speak out in an interview with the New York Times about concerns that Trump could be pushing the U.S. closer to war:

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”

“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”…

…Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk, the senator said, that a coterie of senior administration officials must protect him from his own instincts. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Mr. Corker said in a telephone interview.

According to Corker, his views on Trump are most certainly not a minority opinion:

“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said, adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

 

► As part of efforts to influence the 2016 election, Russian wrench-throwers spent big money on advertisements on Google platforms. Facebook has previously disclosed that Russian-connected groups spent heavily on misinformation ads during the 2016 cycle.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Deja Vu: Redistricting Campaign Defections Begin

Former Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia.

As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports–eerily similar to the way a similar effort collapsed in a heap ahead of the 2016 elections, cracks are rapidly appearing in the well-publicized “coalition” backing a measure to make byzantine changes to the state’s process for congressional redistricting and legislative reapportionment–in the name of making the system “fairer,” a popular national refrain going into 2020, but in reality moving Colorado in the opposite direction:

Two former Democratic politicians, former Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and ex-lawmaker Abel Tapia, have pulled their names as supporters of a campaign that seeks to change the way Colorado draws its political boundaries…

Garcia told The Colorado Independent it became clear to him that the Fair Districts campaign and its efforts are “more controversial and potentially partisan” than he realized. [Pols emphasis] As president of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, Garcia said he has taken pains to avoid public involvement in partisan issues.

The campaign, announced in early September and spearheaded by the League of Women Voters of Colorado, came under immediate scrutiny, Critics say it is little more than a rebranding of an effort that failed to make the ballot last year, and that it did not do enough meaningful outreach to communities of color. The group, anticipating the backlash, says its members did more outreach this time than last.

But critics of the group pointed to a lack of minority support on the Fair Districts webpage of endorsers, which lists more than two dozen supporters. None are black, but four listed on the page were Latino, including Garcia, Tapia, GOP Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff and former lawmaker Larry Trujillo.

That was until Garcia’s and Tapia’s names disappeared.

Organizers responsible for this latest redistricting campaign in Colorado spent considerably more time and money on the roll-out than in 2015, and clearly hoped the new effort would not be tainted by the failure of the previous initiative. Unfortunately, the fact that it is essentially the same campaign fronted by the same Republican usual suspects like former House Speaker Frank McNulty and ex-Rep. Rob “The Blueprint” Witwer was impossible to conceal–and once other white dudes working for the campaign like Sen. Ron Tupa started publicly lecturing former Sen. Jessie Ulibarri about how great their “minority outreach” was, the proverbial writing was on the wall.

We fully expect that the pullout of former Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and Sen. Abel Tapia will lead to further disintegration of the so-called “Fair Districts Colorado” campaign. If it does reach the ballot now it will be hobbled by the same taint of political insider game-playing as the Initiative 55 campaign was in late 2015. If this isn’t the death knell for this campaign going into 2018, it’s a very bad prognosis.

Although the issue of gerrymandering is of major importance across the nation after a decade of huge GOP legislative gains and the next round of district-drawing coming up fast, in Colorado the story of the state’s current legislative and congressional maps is very different. Although certainly improvements can be made to the status quo, the emphasis on fair and competitive districts that prevailed in the 2011 redistricting/reapportionment process in Colorado has given the state many close races where candidates had to earn their seats–and division of power that accurately reflects the state’s diverse and evenly divided electorate. That’s not the way it works everywhere, but it’s critical that Coloradans understand that this is yet another way things are different here politically.

Different, and better.

And as long as that’s the case, political usual suspects looking to tinker with the system for their own advantage should be viewed with the suspicion they deserve. Once again, that suspicion is turning out to be entirely warranted.

Get More Smarter on Friday (October 6)

Enjoy your weekend — snow is coming on Monday. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is making it easier for companies to deny contraception coverage to female employees on “religious” grounds. As the Washington Post reports:

The Trump administration issued a rule Friday that sharply limits the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate, a move that could mean many American women would no longer have access to birth control free of charge.

The new regulation, issued by the Health and Human Services Department, allows a much broader group of employers and insurers to exempt themselves from covering contraceptives such as birth control pills on religious or moral grounds. The decision, anticipated from the Trump administration for months, is the latest twist in a seesawing legal and ideological fight that has surrounded this aspect of the 2010 health-care law nearly from the start.

Several religious groups, which battled the Obama administration for years over the controversial requirement, welcomed the action.

Women’s rights organizations and some medical professionals portrayed it as a blow to women’s health, warning that it could lead to a higher number of unintended pregnancies.

This is the part where we remind you that elections matter.

 

► Is the United States about to start a new military conflict? Tune in next week…

From CNN:

While taking photos alongside military leaders and their spouses before a dinner at the White House, President Donald Trump made an ambiguous statement, citing “the calm before the storm.”

“You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” Trump said at the photo op Thursday night, following a meeting with his top military commanders.
When reporters present asked what he meant, Trump replied: “It could be, the calm, the calm before the storm.”

As Chris Cillizza elaborates for CNNPresident Trump continues to act as though this is all just one big reality TV show.

 

► A group trying to change the redistricting/reapportionment process in Colorado is losing some of its key supporters, as the Colorado Independent reports:

Two former Democratic politicians, former Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and ex-lawmaker Abel Tapia, have pulled their names as supporters of a campaign that seeks to change the way Colorado draws its political boundaries.

The campaign, called Fair Districts Colorado, comes as multiple other states look to reform legislative and congressional redistricting and reapportionment and as the U.S. Supreme Court hears a case about whether partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution

In Colorado, the movement is trying to get three measures on the Nov. 2018 statewide ballot to create a new, more independent commission that would draw legislative and congressional district lines, among other changes.

Garcia told The Colorado Independent it became clear to him that the Fair Districts campaign and its efforts are “more controversial and potentially partisan” than he realized.

 

► The U.S. House passed a 2018 budget resolution on Thursday, the first step in advancing a nonsensical Republican tax reform plan.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Thursday (October 5)

The Colorado Rockies made the playoffs this year, but you missed it if you didn’t catch Wednesday’s game in Arizona. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Tens of thousands of Colorado children are in serious trouble if Congress does not renew funding for CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program that expired at the end of September. The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday took the first step toward renewing CHIP funding with a bill sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

 

► Today is the last day for DACA recipients to renew permits before the process is closed under a policy shift announced last month by the Trump administration.

 

► Colorado Senate Republican leaders pledged not to do their jobs when the legislature convened for a brief session to fix an unintentional legislative error this week, and they succeeded in doing nothing once again. But the decisions of Republican leaders such as Senate President Kevin Grantham are looking even worse with the news that legislation to fix SB-267 would have passed in the Senate had a floor vote been permitted.

State Sen. Chris Holbert is among those Republican leaders whose reputations took a hit this week. Holbert was quoted by the Denver Post saying that he “did not swear an oath to uphold the opinion of a court” and preferred to follow his constituents’ interpretation of the State Constitution rather than, you know, facts.

 

► Former Judge Roy Moore, who easily defeated Sen. Luther Strange in a Republican Primary in Alabama last month, showed up unexpectedly in Washington D.C. on Wednesday and caused quite a stir. As the Washington Post reports, Moore apparently met with NRSC head Cory Gardner, despite the best efforts of both men to pretend othewise:

Rather than meeting with McConnell, Moore was on the House side of the Capitol on Wednesday. In a brief interview as he left the office of Rep. Robert B. Aderholt in the afternoon, Moore said he had no meetings set up with McConnell or members of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate majority’s campaign arm, which spent millions trying to defeat Moore in the primary.

“Nothing confirmed,” he said casually, as an aide tried to head off questions. Asked why he decided to come to Washington, Moore simply replied: “Beautiful place.”

In the evening, Moore met with the NRSC chairman, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), according to a Republican close to Gardner and a second Republican familiar with the talk who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the closed-door session. Moore’s campaign declined to comment.

The meeting appeared to be hastily arranged, given Moore’s afternoon remark and Gardner’s uncertainty earlier in the day, as he and other Republicans struggled to save face.

“I haven’t looked at the schedule — I don’t know that yet,” Gardner said around midday, when asked whether he planned to meet with Moore.

The entire story is worth a read; Republicans who feared Moore and his right-wing supporters seem to have plenty of reason to be nervous. Moore’s Senate campaign was also a referendum on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom the Alabama nominee has openly criticized.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

CONFIRMED: Special Session Bill Had The Votes To Pass

State Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa).

A worthy story from KUNC’s Bente Birkeland up today recapping the failure of the special session of the Colorado General Assembly to fix a drafting error in legislation passed this year that’s costing special tax districts like Denver RTD millions of dollars in uncollected marijuana tax revenue. Birkeland appears to be first to report an important fact already well-known inside the state capitol–the legislation accomplishing the goal would have passed the GOP-controlled Senate if it had been allowed a vote by the full chamber.

“The legislature doesn’t make tax policy changes inadvertently by mistake,” said Democratic Majority Leader KC Becker of Boulder.

And some Republicans sided with Democrats. Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa said he would’ve backed the Democratic bill to restore the pot tax money to the special districts. [Pols emphasis]

“I think you’ve had three established cases similar to this and the courts found it legitimate,” Crowder said.

Republican Sen. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs even drafted a bill that several members of his party were backing. But when he found out Republican leaders would not let it reach the Senate floor for a full vote, he didn’t introduce it…

We can’t be completely certain about Sen. Bob Gardner, but his help drafting legislation to resolve the problem strongly indicates he would have supported the House’s bill that died in the Senate Transportation Committee yesterday. Likewise Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, whose bill to fix the problem became such a political liability for Republicans that he was forced to embarrassingly disown it, would almost certainly have votes “yes” if Republican leadership had seen fit to allow the bill to the floor. Even without those two votes, Sen. Larry Crowder’s much more explicit support means the bill would have passed the Colorado Senate. Crowder is of course no stranger to sparring with hard-right interest groups like Americans for Prosperity, who he once referred to memorably as “honyocks.”

In retrospect, the fact that there were Republicans ready to support the objective of the special session in the Colorado Senate was significantly underreported by news media, who erroneously characterized the impasse as entirely along party lines. The truth is in fact more complicated in both chambers, from Rep. Dan Thurlow’s defection in the House to several potential such votes in the Senate. But in the Senate, it does appear that the powerful influence AFP exerts over the leadership in that chamber carried the day over the wishes of enough Republican lawmakers to have reversed the outcome. After all, only one was needed.

Here lies a potent argument for Democrats in the 2018 elections, even against Senators who never had a chance to vote either way in the special session: majorities matter. Who is in charge of the chamber–that matters. Just like it matters in Congress, where Mike Coffman pays lip service to liberal objectives while his leadership makes sure they never happen. In this way, the embarrassing collapse of the special session could directly contribute to total loss of GOP influence over lawmaking in Colorado in 2018.

As they say in this business, the attack ads write themselves.

History Will Not Be Kind To Sen. Chris Holbert

Sen. Chris Holbert (R) on a DIY “border patrol” in Arizona.

In today’s in-depth post-mortem from John Frank and Jesse Paul of the Denver Post, a remark from Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert that’s provoking a lot of discussion today on both sides of the aisle–and not the good kind:

Democratic legislative leaders called Republicans “obstructionists” and pointed to a Colorado Supreme Court decision that affirms lawmakers’ ability to pass legislation to correct the mistake without going to voters for approval under TABOR. But Republicans didn’t buy it.

Senate Republican leader Chris Holbert, of Parker, dismissed the court’s ruling in an eye-opening statement. “I did not swear an oath to uphold the opinion of a court,” he said, adding that his constituents’ interpretation of the constitution is more important. [Pols emphasis]

Let’s take a moment to unpack this jaw-dropping statement. When Sen. Holbert says he “did not swear to uphold the opinion of a court,” that’s in reference to the Colorado Supreme Court. The problem with this is that under the Colorado Constitution, like the federal constitution it is frequently muddled with in these arguments, the courts interpret the law. That means Holbert did swear an oath to uphold the decision of the Colorado Supreme Court where they have interpreted the meaning of the Colorado Constitution.

Which means that Holbert is clueless about the oath he took as a lawmaker. That’s bad.

But as bad as that is, Holbert’s next statement that ‘his constituents’ interpretation of the constitution is more important’ could be even more outrageous. Is the reason not immediately evident to you? Perhaps this will jog your memory:

These are also “constituents” who had a different “interpretation of the constitution.”

(more…)

Winners and Losers from Special Session are Obvious…and Troubling

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham does the bidding of AFP

The special legislative session ended on Tuesday when Senate Republicans killed the second of two bills aimed at fixing an unintended glitch from the 2017 session that is costing special tax districts millions of dollars.

As Ernest Luning writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, the “winners and losers” from the special session help tell an all-too-familiar tale of an era where right-wing special interest groups have a stranglehold on Republican lawmakers. The big winner this week, as Luning explains, is the Koch brother-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP):

The conservative organization hit the special session early and hit it hard, mobilizing hundreds of members and supporters to contact legislators to make their opposition clear, and it worked. Not every Republican was on board with the strictest reading of TABOR’s requirements when the call went out, but by the time lawmakers filled the Capitol, AFP’s approach was widely shared and set the tone for the GOP. A deluge of digital ads over the weekend ahead of the session — five figures’ worth, state director Jesse Mallory said — helped reinforce the party line. The session also gave AFP a second chance to whack at Senate Bill 267, which has come under heavy fire from conservatives for lifting the state’s revenue ceiling allowed under TABOR, as well as flouting a constitutional requirement that a bill have a single subject.

Luning lists Senate Democrats as the only other “winner” of the special session, arguing that Senate Republicans put themselves in a tough spot with the voting public as they try to maintain their one-vote majority in the state Senate.

The big losers of the special session are easy to find: Colorado’s middle and working class. Buses, hospitals, museums and zoos will all suffer because Senate Republicans were more interested in proving their fealty to AFP than in doing right by hard-working Coloradans:

Nine special districts across the state — from the Denver metro area’s Regional Transportation District and Scientific and Cultural Facilities District to regional transportation authorities in El Paso County and some mountain towns and a hospital district in Montezuma — won’t be banking a total of roughly $590,000  in recreational marijuana sales tax each month the law remains as it is…

…the governor said he was calling the session because special districts insisted they faced a funding emergency — and couldn’t wait until January for a regular-session fix — and they came up empty-handed.

Republican lawmakers will tell themselves that they did the right thing because groups like AFP are happy, but as the Denver Post opined on Monday, “none of that background noise justifies blocking the simple-fix legislation.”